Tensions have been rising between left-wing activists and public figures who express conservative points of view. We have seen politicians and even television personalities harassed for their political beliefs – a practice that at least one senior Democrat has encouraged. Following a confrontational protest, one state lawmaker has taken to protecting herself by openly carrying a weapon at her place of work.
Seeking to protect herself from potentially violent open-borders activists, Virginia State Senator Amanda Chase (R-11) carried a handgun openly on her person about the capital complex in Richmond this week.
Speaking with LibertyNation.com, the senator rejected the idea that her actions were intended as political speech, stating she carried openly “simply for personal safety.” Chase carried openly to make a statement – not for political purposes, but to those who think physical assault is an acceptable form of protest. The first-term senator from Chesterfield County carries her .38 hammerless revolver all the time, but she usually does so concealed. She made the decision to openly carry this week after her colleague, Senator Dick Black (R-13), had a run-in with immigration activists that left her concerned.
Liberals Prompt Armed Response
Black was swarmed by a confrontational group who were in opposition to his bill to ban “sanctuary cities.” Although Black was led away from the group by Capitol police, the incident left conservative legislators shaken. “I have a number of hotly contested bills,” Chase said, that might make her a target for aggressive protestors.
Senator Chase said she favored being “accessible to and with the people,” but that she was mindful of her personal security needs. There’s a saying among gun carriers that goes something like “carry a pistol because it’s too hard to carry a police officer around with you.” Chase has done both and prefers the pistol. She has paid for security to accompany her to events, but doesn’t wish to restrict her availability to her constituents, or “to burden the taxpayers with that expense.” Security expenses would be no small matter for a politician whose constituency expects to see and access her around the district with regularity.
Claiming “it is a deterrent,” Chase hopes the move from concealed to open carry might prevent a problem from developing in the first place. According to The Washington Post, at least six Virginia state senators “regularly bring guns on the floor,” but they have all chosen to conceal their weapons until now.
Virginia Is For Lovers & Open Carry
The weather around gun politics in Virginia is especially stormy this legislative session as the Old Dominion wrestles with its transformation away from a conservative, Republican one favoring pro-firearms laws. There are dozens of bills on firearms still active in the legislature according to Phillip Van Cleave, head of the Virginia Citizen’s Defense League (VCDL), perhaps the leading statewide single-issue civil rights advocacy organization.
While all manner of restrictions and bans are included among lawmakers’ proposals, revocation of the right to openly carry is not yet one of them. Virginia is one of about 30 states that generally allows adults to open carry firearms without a license or permit, and the state’s gun control proponents unwittingly hastened the state’s population to openly carry their firearms.
In 1992, Virginia passed a “shall issue” law. Before that, Virginia, like most states, had discretionary permitting for concealed carry permission. That meant any person who applied for a permit to carry could be denied for any reason. Fed up with discriminatory policies like those that encouraged cronyism and benefited the friends and families of the powerful at the expense of the rest, gun rights advocates changed the laws. In a wave of states, Virginia included, they saw laws passed that removed the arbitrary nature of concealed carry permission. Anyone who met the qualifications could get the permit, just like a driver’s license.
There were rules, however – as many and as restrictive as the anti-gunners could attach. One of them was that, until 2010, a concealed permit holder could not carry their gun at or in an establishment licensed to serve alcohol. Join your coworkers on that trip to Outback Steakhouse for lunch? You couldn’t do so legally while carrying concealed. But since open carry was always legal, the solution was clear – simply take off that jacket, tuck that shirt in, and let everyone see. Given that so many restaurants do serve alcohol, and that going out to eat in restaurants is quite popular, well, nature took its course, and open carry at Virginia restaurants became relatively common.
Leave it to the legislature to produce a reality where quietly concealing a firearm in a crowded place is illegal, but showing one off is muy bueno. Senator Chase will continue to carry, and openly, should she perceive the need – in the state’s legislature and elsewhere.
*The author has been a member of VCDL.